A Berneray soldier who served in the First World War will be one of those commemorated during an art installation which will be created on November 11th – and washed away by the sea.

Duncan MacKinnon (1893 – 23 March 1916) was one of six brothers who all went to war. Out of the six, he and his brother Neil (born 1899) were killed.

Now his portrait is to be created on the sand of Cula Beach in Benbecula as part of a series of artworks in a series called Pages of the Sea. Artist Danny Boyle has designed the portraits, to be completed by sand artists Sand in your Eye, on 31 UK beaches including in Benbecula.

At low tide on Monday November 11th, people are invited to gather in remembrance and to see the large-scale portrait washed away as the tide comes in. People will also be invited to join in by creating silhouettes of other people on the beaches, remembering the millions of lives lost or changed forever by the conflict. 

The work is part of a four-year programme called 14-18 NOW, which has also included events commemorating the Iolaire disaster. The UK’s arts programme for First World War centenary commemoration is supported by the National Lottery and the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. 

Duncan was born in Berneray, to Mary and Finlay MacKinnon. During the war, he served on the armed trawler Corona, one of many small ships that formed the Auxiliary Patrol, with tasks including minesweeping and anti-submarine operations. The Corona was sunk near Ramsgate, Kent, and Duncan is buried in the town’s cemetery.

His brother Neil was a deck hand on HMS Nairn, and was awarded a Victory Medal and British War medal. He survived until 8th May 1919. Another brother, the Bard Hector MacKinnon, survived the war despite being torpedoed and subsequently rescued. This had a lasting effect on Hector, evident from his poetry. In his poem ‘The Song of the Iolaire’ he wrote:

“Harris, where I am familiar,
Is sad like the rest,
This year is mournful
For many throughout the island,
There is longing and grief
That will never be forgotten,
The friends who are separated
Who were lost for our benefit. “

The picture shows Duncan Mackinnon (14-18 NOW)